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Sweden

Sweden is many things but it certainly isn't flat. At last there are hills with views at the top. The coastline around Gothenberg is wonderfully expansive with archipelagos stretching to the horizon. It reminds me of Moidart though it's perhaps not that pretty.

There is a great feeling of space in Sweden; houses are all spread well apart and much of the land is rough and unused, unlike most other countries I've encountered where every inch of land is developed in some way. This is good for me because it gives me a chance to camp wild. In Sweden wild camping is legal, providing certain criteria are met. I often get the feeling these rules are calculated to make wild camping as difficult as possible, for instance, you have to be 150 metres from a house, which is quite a lot, and all the houses seemed to be spaced just under 300 metres apart so you are always within 150 metres of one. However, throughout my stay I found it reasonably easy to find places, although it meant pitching my tent in long grass. The first night I camped wild I heard a large animal moving through the woods behind the tent. It sounded like no other animal I've ever heard and I figured it was either an elk or a wild boar, although I wouldn't have thought either animal was present in Sweden so far south. I briefly considered moving camp but was too tired and fell asleep quite quickly, never hearing from the beast again. I had planned to wild camp every other night or one out of 3, but found no campsites beyond Gothenberg so ended up camping wild throughout. This kept my costs down quite a bit, which is just as well because in other ways Sweden is an extremely expensive place to visit.

The cost of food in Sweden was a shock. I had expected similar prices to Denmark but, although a pound buys more Swedish than Danish Krone, prices were on average about 30% higher. A packet of digestives costs over 20 Swedish Krone - about £1.80. Bread is about 25 Krone (over £2) for a loaf and about 15 Krone (about £1.30) for a baguette. However, there are a few idiosyncracies; I managed to buy bacon for about 80p. Milk was also quite cheap and I bought a huge bag of muesli for about £1 so this made up the staple of my diet for most of my stay. I tried making some muesli bars over my camp stove, they actually tasted really good - much better than the oversweetened ones you can buy - but keeping the base from burning is tricky. I also tried making my own bread, using just flour and water cooked in a pan. It's not the most apetising bread, being very dense, but this makes it excellent for cycle touring as it takes up very little room and doesn't get squashed and it tastes pretty good with a bit of butter.

With the high costs I was dreading buying a new cassette for my bike, fearing it would cost about £50, but the bike shop I was in had a half price sale so I got one for under £10, which is extremely cheap. I bought some brake blocks while I was there and would have got a new kickstand but it didn't fit my bike. I also picked up a charger for my mobile for under £2 (in a different shop), and bought some new headphones as I had, regrettably, lost my mp3 player and phones. It's not a huge problem as I have two mobiles with me but annoying. All in all, even with these purchases, my stay in Sweden worked out by far the cheapest per day, purely because I spent nothing on campsites. This is quite encouraging for heading into Norway.

The cycling infrastructure is patchy in Sweden. There are many cycle paths but they are often poorly signposted and much of the time I cycled on the roads, which were fairly quiet. It's a lovely place to cycle though and I feel rather sorry to be leaving so much of it unexplored, though I may return to it further north.

I'm enjoying studying on the road. It's easier to concentrate as, once you've got the essentials like eating and sleeping out of the way there are fewer distractions. Using a laptop is a pain though and I ended up typing out my entire first assignment on my Nokia phone as it is more convenient to access and to recharge. The stupidly reflective screen on my laptop means I can hardly see anything and I ended up posting my first assignment to the wrong module. Luckily my tutor was understanding and I ended up getting a pretty good mark, just missing a distinction. I really wish I could do without the laptop as it is cumbersome but I need it for the econometrics part of the course. My Kobo ebook reader has proven to be much more useful for reading course material, but not having used it much previously I took the coursebooks just in case. They are quite bulky though so imagine my annoyance last week to find out that 3/4 of the chapters were in fact optional so I didn't need most of them. I am now reading them cover to cover so that carting them over 2000 miles wasn't all for nothing.

Posted by beyondbritain 06:53

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